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3 Reasons Not to Panic Over the Ryan Clady Injury

Ken Pomponio Avatar
May 28, 2015


Yeah, the early-afternoon news Thursday was a straight punch to the gut for Broncos Country: Left tackle Ryan Clady likely is lost for the 2015 season after suffering a torn ACL while dropping back in pass protection during an OTA drill.

With third-round pick Jeff Heuerman also suffering the same fate a few weeks ago, that’s the second major knee injury for the Orange and Blue since the draft.

Double ouch – and training camp is still two months away. Perhaps Broncos fans should be positively thrilled that Demaryius Thomas is staying away from the carnage.

But, in the meantime, the Broncos’ reconfigured offensive front is going to have to do some more reconfiguring without its four-time Pro Bowl and two-time first-team All-Pro left tackle who also happened to be the lone member of the contingent who was projected to start at the same position as last season.

That calls for another double ouch.

But let’s not completely write off the 2015 season and the Broncos’ offense just yet.


We all understand that losing a four-time Pro Bowl blind-side protector isn’t the best of offseason developments, and some serious maneuvers and adjustments lie ahead for Gary Kubiak and his coaching staff but following are three reasons not to completely freak out over Clady news:


Clady has been a left-tackle fixture for the Broncos, starting 98 games since being drafted in the first round in 2008.

But there was one of his seven seasons where he didn’t start all 16 games, and that of course came in 2013 when he made two starts before being lost for the remainder of the season with a Lisfranc foot injury in Week 2.

As you may also recall, that 2013 Broncos season only turned out to be greatest offensive season in nearly 100 years of NFL history as Peyton Manning and the Orange and Blue established all-time standards in points scored, passing yards and passing TDs among a bevy of other records.

Reserve Chris Clark ably shifted from the right to left side to fill in for Clady, and things worked out fine for the O-line until the Super Bowl debacle against the Seahawks.

But up until then, the Broncos went 13-4 without Clady, allowing the fewest sacks (20) and lowest sack percentage (2.9) in the league while finishing as an above-average rushing team with 117.1 yards per game and 4.1 yards per attempt.

“Not what he once was?”

Judging offensive-line performance is one of the toughest tasks in sports as there are no quick and quantifiable individual metrics we can go to such as completion percentage, total tackles or yards per catch.

Instead we have to rely on largely go by the eye test and the opinion-based end-of-season honors, such as the Pro Bowl selections and All-Pro teams.

Clady was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl in seven seasons in 2014, but I – like most of you who are reading this – saw just about every offensive snap for the Broncos last season, and Clady just didn’t appear to be the Clady of, say, four or five seasons ago.

Something was missing, and Pro Football Focus clearly noticed it, too:

Now these are the folks that watch every game and then re-watch every game, breaking down and grading each individual position. And while there may not have been 40 other offensive tackles you’d rather have than Clady in 2014, it’s safe to say that the left tackle’s reputation has outshone his actual performance of late.

Hey, it’s still early

Only hours after the Clady injury Thursday, the Broncos signed former tackle Ryan Harris. And that follows the draft a month ago in which they used their second-round pick on Colorado State OT Ty Sambrailo.

Also, Clark is still around and so is Michael Schofield, the Broncos’ third-round pick from a season ago who is coming off a developmental redshirt year.

Meanwhile, I don’t know about your calendar, but mine still says it’s May – roughly three-and-a-half months before the Broncos kick things off for real against the Baltimore Ravens and some proficient pass-rusher named Dumervil.

Now, admittedly, with guard Louis Vasquez now the lone returnee of note, the Orange and Blue offensive line is a question mark wrapped inside a enigma – or however the adage goes – but it’s a mess by any measure.

But the point here is that the Broncos have time – more than three months’ worth – to cobble together a workable offensive front.

Combined with Manning’s quick release, even at age 39, and Kubiak’s penchant for piecing together solid offensive lines largely out of NFL scraps – research the pedigrees of the Broncos’ late-1990s and early-2000s O-lines and his Texans’ fronts of the last decade – there’s a solid chance the Orange and Blue O-line will be just fine this coming season.

Clady or no Clady.

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